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When the artist is also the teacher

Niki completed her Diploma of Visual Arts at TAFE Queensland’s Cairns campus several years ago and subsequently heavily immersed herself in the creative industries, and then some. A move to the United States to study African American History and Hip-Hop studies at the University of North Carolina, was then followed by a move to New York City, where Niki started her own clothing line (Live Art Wear).

How does learning visual arts from a coveted and current visual artist, fashion designer, and graphic designer sound? What about learning from someone who embraces hip-hop culture, ethical and eco-friendly trade, makes and sells their own clothing label, supports local artists through retail, and hosts creative workshops on the side? Niki Worth, aka Sydney The Artist, is THAT person and is one of TAFE Queensland’s new Foundation Educators for Visual Arts. And this introduction doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the experience Niki brings to her students…

Niki completed her Diploma of Visual Arts at TAFE Queensland’s Cairns campus several years ago and subsequently heavily immersed herself in the creative industries, and then some. A move to the United States to study African American History and Hip-Hop studies at the University of North Carolina, was then followed by a move to New York City, where Niki started her own clothing line (Live Art Wear). Over the next three years Niki worked as a designer, expanded her brand, embraced the inimitable culture and opportunities for personal growth, and received endless inspiration. And now, fortunately for TAFE Queensland Visual Arts students, she’s back in Cairns. This time marking the assignments, instead of completing them…


“I began the Foundation Educator Program in January (2022), and I have just started teaching classes, which is really amazing. I will graduate with my Certificate IV in Training and Assessment in October,” Niki began.

“What I love about this program is that they [TAFE Queensland] thought about previous students who had completed Visual Arts at TAFE (and then worked as a creative) and approached them to encourage them to apply for the Foundation Educator role. It has come full circle and that feels nice,” explained Niki.

The Foundation Educator Program sees industry experts employed and paid as a Foundation Educator whilst completing their Certificate IV in Training and Assessment through TAFE Queensland, with the latter being fully funded, if completed within 12 months. It was designed and developed by TAFE Queensland to attract passionate industry experts and convert them into the highest quality teachers and tutors, swiftly – in direct response to Vocational Education and Training recruitment challenges identified within a new research paper from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research.

More specifically, as Foundation Educators progress through each stage of their training qualification, their responsibilities within the classroom increase, under the guidance of the Foundation Educator’s appointed Supervisor, who acts as a ‘mentor’ to, and assesses and confirms the Foundation Educator’s required skills and competencies. And on graduation – they become a teacher with TAFE Queensland.

“At the start of the program, it was a lot of shadowing the teachers and observing, and as you progress you start to build your confidence and help students on their tasks and questions. Now that I have my ‘Delivery Cluster’ finished in my training, I can teach the class, so the past few weeks I have been preparing learning resources and teaching, which has been very rewarding,” shared Niki.

“Forming a bond and connection with the students has been so special. It’s so rewarding watching them grow and learn, and I feel very lucky to be a part of that. The Visual Arts teaching team has also been so brilliant in nurturing and supporting me in my own learning journey. They have really helped me to not only trust in myself as an educator, but also have shown me many wonderful ways to teach and be creative in how we inspire and educate students,” Niki continued.

Niki, in addition to her TAFE Queensland studies, is studying Art Therapy, and owns Tropica Store and Studio in Gordonvale – a concept and online boutique that sources and sells eclectic and global pieces, including African baskets to Mexican handcrafts, to artworks from local artisans, plus eco-friendly gifts and homewares.

Niki is committed to continue working as a creative on her own projects, offering, “I will continue teaching in the Visual Arts program at TAFE Queensland AND with my own creative practice. I love the balance of doing both as with my personal business I’m exposed to (and use) current industry trends and knowledge, and I can then bring this information back into the classroom.”

Niki’s parting advice for others contemplating the Foundation Educator teaching route?

“I would 100% say do it. It’s a life-changing experience and it’s an incredible way to connect your industry experience to a whole new platform, which is really rewarding. It’s a lot of work but it’s worth it because you will come out on the other side with the skills and knowledge to be a great educator.”